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KARACHI, July 6: The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has sent notices to the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) and the Pakistan Coast Guards (PCG) for violating environmental laws by recently burning narcotics in the open, it emerged on Friday.

The Environmental Protection Tribunal, Sindh, passed a judgment last month against the practice of destroying narcotics in the open.

Giving its judgment on a complaint filed by Syed Tahir Ali, the tribunal asked Sepa to effectively liaise with all government agencies and provide them assistance for a proper disposal of narcotics through incinerators.

“In case of failure, Sepa may issue EPO (environmental protection order) as provided under Section 16 of EPA (Environment Protection Act) and file a complaint to this honorable tribunal. That is further submitted that environmental issues are complex. All international treaties and protocols emphasise on bringing awareness of environmental problems through constant education amongst public and private sectors,” said the judgment.

The tribunal put the responsibility of creating awareness in society on the provincial environmental agency and stated that it was Sepa’s job to “adopt measures by encouraging participation by these sectors through seminars and publications even at the school level followed by a will to develop strong monitoring system”.

Sepa Director General Rafiuddin told Dawn that the agency had held a meeting with relevant stakeholders in April this year where they had made a commitment to abide by environmental laws and assured that no activity of burning narcotics in the open would take place in future.

“We had invited ANF and customs officials to the meeting and they were asked to inform us well in advance about their plans to destroy confiscated material. I am surprised that the government agencies have continued with the practice though they had committed to avoiding such environmentally hazardous activities,” he said, adding that notices had been issued to the PCG and ANF on July 5. The notices, he said, would be followed by an EPO if the agencies failed to reply.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation ran two incinerators and these facilities could have been made available free of cost if the organisations had sought Sepa’s assistance, he said.

“The government agencies should be more sensitive towards environmental laws and towards this purpose I believe efforts are required to create awareness among public sector officials,” he said.

Experts said that burning of narcotics and other seized material in the open was a big environmental hazard as it was like releasing chemicals into the air. It was imperative that government agencies stop this practice forthwith, they said.

The disposal of narcotics, the experts suggested, was the same as that of medicines and they needed to be burnt in dual-chamber incinerators installed far from populated areas. The leftover ash and other material also needed to be disposed of properly at a landfill site otherwise it might lead to groundwater contamination, they added.

Tonnes of narcotics were burnt on June 26 across the country in connection with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

In Karachi, a joint burning activity was organised by the PCG under the auspices of Inter Agency Task Force on Counter Narcotics (Sindh) at Neelum Point, Hawkesbay.

The ANF burnt 19,735.419kgs of hashish and 175.265kgs of heroin while the PCG destroyed 3,616.490kgs of hashish, 9.850kgs of heroin, 39,617 bottles of alcohol, 3,483 cans of beer, 272,950 packets of gutka, 2,000kgs of betel nuts and 1,249.400kgs of potassium permanganate.